PwC examines NWDA grant system

Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers were called in by the North West Development Agency last autumn to 'look at any unnecessary bureaucracy and blockages within the agency's project approval processes', it has emerged.

It is understood the scrutiny measure was implemented by new agency chairman Robert Hough as part of his agenda of appraising the work of the most powerful quango in the region after he took office.

The NWDA's October board minutes, recently published, said PwC's work would 'potentially include talking to a focus group of applicants.' The results would be included in a future chief executive's report, as yet unpublished. The NWDA is often accused of slow decision-making by developers seeking grant funding.

In a statement issued today the NWDA said: "PwC are completing the review of the agency's systems and procedures regarding applications for support from partners and a report is expected to be produced in March.

Other interesting items in the minutes include details of meetings by council leaders in the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal area, dubbed Atlantic Gateway, including those atop Wirral, Liverpool, Cheshire West & Chester, Trafford, Salford and Warrington local authorities.

The minutes state: "Leaders in the Atlantic Gateway area had met. Good progress was being made and Atlantic Gateway was an important strategic opportunity to be included within RS2010."

The declaration of support further strengthens Peel's position in future planning applications for its dozen major projects along the Atlantic Gateway.

Robert Hough, NWDA chairman and also a non-executive director of Peel, declared an interest in the agency board meeting when public spending at Peel's Media City UK was discussed under an item on resource allocation and again over the national indoor BMX centre at Sportscity, Manchester. Hough was chairman of New East Manchester, the urban regeneration company responsible for Sportscity, until he stood down from the board in December 2009. NEM is currently in the process of recruiting a new chairman.

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